Shyllon charges FG on investment in art to boost economy, productivity
Renowned art collector, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon, has called on the Federal Government to invest in the art to bridge the nation’s employment gap and boost productivity.
This formed part of the issues raised by Shyllon during the Toyin Falola Interview Series held via various social media6 platforms and streamed live to various audiences across the globe on Sunday, January 15, 2023.
The interview panel was led by celebrated African historian, Professor Toyin Falola, Professor Peju Layiwola, Professor Dele Jegede, and Victor Ekpuk. Professor Layiwola is an art historian and visual artist who works in a variety of media and genre. Professor Jegede is a Nigerian-American painter, art historian, cartoonist, curator, art critic, art administrator, and teacher. While Ekpuk is a Nigerian-born artist based in Washington DC. Ekpuk rose to prominence through his paintings and drawings, which reflect indigenous African philosophies of the Nsibidi and Uli art forms.
While speaking on the indispensability of art, Shyllon argued that art is more enduring, “it is a legal transaction that is respected all over the world. It can be passed from generation to generation. It also helps to promote the culture of a nation. It helps to develop young minds into being more productive in society. Collecting art is a form of providing employment. If Nigeria could invest in art, the tourism potential is extensive. The Eiffel Tower takes about 10 million visitors per annum. The potential behind the art is huge and unimaginable. Art will give this nation something to be proud of. It will give this nation something to showcase, which in fact means that we contributed to civilisation and that we had a history before we were colonised. It is completely better than ransom-taking.”
Earlier, he informed the gathering that his passion for the collection of art increased from interest to passion.
“I started out of love, interest for art. I had a latent talent for art. As I moved from interest, I went to passion. In that passion, I began to read about Nigerian art. In my work life as an executive director of a multinational company, I had gone around the world. Before I knew what was happening, passion became an obsession. I told my people that obsession had grown to become glorious. It gave me the opportunity of making a mark in my life. Many people who meet me only recognise me as an art patron the moment I introduce myself as Yemisi Shyllon. They do not recollect that I am an engineer; they don’t remember I have a degree in business administration; they don’t remember I am a lawyer; they don’t remember that I am an investor. Art has given me a unique life. I am best when I am within my artwork. My best friends are artists because we share the same values in life. We look at life from a very expansive point of view. A good artist or collector is never parochial. You cannot be a good collector and be tribalistic because you are going to collect art from different tribes.
“Over time, I discovered that there are a lot of intrinsic values in art in terms of investment. Investing in art is one of the best forms of investment. In other climes, when there is a recession, what people do is put their money into art and gold. Art is more stable than gold. You cannot buy the glamour in art with money,” he said.
He cautioned that the demonisation of art as a fetish in religious circles should be jettisoned as this is not the case.
“The average Nigerian does not understand what culture is. He sees culture from the prism of religion and no more. I have had cause to give lectures to demonstrate the fact that culture is much more encompassing than religion. Religion is only part of the philosophical trapping of culture. Even within the philosophical concept of culture, we talk about the values of society, and the attributes expected within a culture. This is only a part. When you look at culture from a wider angle, it has the elements of customs which again is very large. You also have the problem of tradition. After this, you look at the systems of government. You look at literature, music, dress pattern, language, and food. China sells its culture around the world with its food. I did a study once and I discovered that China makes on average four trillion dollars with its food. Every Nigerian wants to eat Chinese food. They don’t realise they are contributing to the revenue base of China through their food culture. There was a time when the alumni association of the University of Lagos invited me to give a lecture at a Chinese restaurant. I walked in there and told them that they invited me to speak about the culture of my people in a Chinese restaurant and that such was unacceptable to me. Culture includes economic systems. It is only in Nigeria that you find people hawking on the streets. It is part of the economic system of my culture,” he said.